We’ve been visiting Disney World almost annually since before our youngest could walk. As they turned into teens and tweens we wondered if the “Magic” would still be there. Our last few visits have proven that yes, Disney is a great family vacation destination regardless of the ages of the kids.
Disney is so big it is too hard to pick a Top Ten list. In this post we’ll summarize the highlights and then from time to time add additional posts with more details, photos and inspiration. One note, for us, part of the “Magic” is staying in Disney Resorts. We enjoy the early opening hours afforded to resort guests and appreciate the opportunity to take an afternoon break at the pool before hitting the parks again in the evening. We are particularlly fond of the villas at resorts like the Boardwalk, The Beach Club, the Animal Kingdom Lodge, the Bay Tower or Saratoga Springs. They range from studios with kitchenettes to 1 and 2 bedroom condo style units with full kitchens, washer/dryers and a living room so you can spread out when you’ve had too much family togetherness.
Teen and Tween Disney World “Can’t Miss” List
The Magic Kingdom
The Magic Kingdom priorities include Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Railroad. We also love Buzz Lightyear, the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean. The parades and fireworks are always a hit but sometimes we opt to go back for more rides while the crowds are watching the entertainment. See our list of our favorite Magic Kingdom rides.
At Epcot, our kids can never get enough of the race car experience at Test Track, the virtual hang glider experience at Soarin’ and the simulated rocket ship lift off at Mission Space. When single rider lines are available, they will take off on their own for an extra run or two if time allows. Our favorites restaurants are also in Epcot – the Teppan Edo in the Japan pavilion entertains all ages as the chefs put on a show while cooking dinner before your eyes. And for steak eaters, the Le Cellier Steakhouse in the Canadian pavilion is terrific.
Animal Kingdom features Expedition Everest and the Dinosaur thrill rides as well as the Kali Rapids River Ride and the carnival rides in Dinoland. Even as teens and tweens our kids look forward to walking the trails to see tigers, gorillas, and many other animals in their natural habitats. And we can’t leave without taking the safari ride. Check out our Disney Animal Kingdom Photo Friday post for some pictures of the park’s residents.
In the Hollywood Studios, The Tower of Terror, Rockin Roller Coaster, and Toy Store Mania are high on the list. The Indiana Jones stunt show always gets our attention as well. For those 14 and up, the Hollywood Studios offers the chance to participate in an American Idol experience featuring auditions and performing in shows. Daily winners ages 16-28 get a chance to go to the head of the line at one of next season’s auditions for the well known TV show. Register in advance if possible.
One of the great things about visiting Disney with teens and tweens is that mom and dad don’t have to go on all the rides anymore, unless of course they want to. If the kids have a buddy or a sibling, let them go while you shop or eat a nice lunch. This is a great age to bring a friend or coordinate visits with other families. Older teens, with a friend, can easily navigate the parks on their own for a day, checking in via cell phone as needed.
Don’t Forget the Water Parks and Downtown Disney
The water parks like Typhoon Lagoon are also great for kids this age since they don’t need to be supervised every second. They can enjoy the killer water slides while mom gets some sun. In the evening, teens and tweens like DisneyQuest, along with dinner at Planet Hollywood, at Downtown Disney. And, of course, teens and tweens are more than able to stay up for late night rides and fireworks, although they may need a morning to sleep in to make up for it.
For us, years of Disney memories have been built on taking our time and enjoying the little things. We still smile remembering our 12 year old talking to a parrot for 15 minutes on a side trail at the Animal Kingdom. Sometimes, it’s the unplanned moments and times away from the main attractions that make the most lasting memories. Disney is big, but there plenty of pixie dust to go around!
We are such Disney fans that Ciao Bambino recently asked us to pull together a guest blog. If you have toddlers or elementary school age kids you might want to check out our “Disney World for All Ages” article on their site. We also submitted this to the Delicious Baby Photo Friday where you can find lots of other great family travel pics.